Retired judge AK Patnaik, who will head the committee set up to look into the claims that Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has been framed for sexual harassment, has said that he will start his inquiry only after the probe into the allegations against Gogoi is over.
“No time limit has been set for when [my] inquiry report is to be submitted to the Supreme Court,” Patnaik told The Indian Express. “The inquiry will start after the in-house committee on the charges the lady complainant has levelled is completed.”
Patnaik is a former judge of the Supreme Court. On Thursday, a three-judge bench of the top court named him the head of a panel that will investigate the claims of Utsav Bains, a lawyer, that he was offered money to help frame Gogoi. The bench made the decision after Bains presented his claims about the “conspiracy” in two affidavits.
The top court has made it clear that the inquiry of Patnaik’s committee will not interfere in the investigation by the other panel that is looking into the allegations of harassment against Gogoi. The panel conducting the in-house inquiry into the sexual harassment allegations comprises Justices SA Bobde, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee.
During the hearing of Bains’ claims, the bench, comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Rohinton Nariman and Deepak Gupta, had said it will not allow the “rich and powerful” to run the country with money. “He [Bains] has said that there are fixers,” Mishra had said. “We need to find out who are these fixers. We will inquire and inquire and inquire and take it to logical conclusion.”
The case and Gogoi’s reaction
The complainant in the sexual harassment case used to work as a junior court assistant at the top court. On April 19, she wrote to 22 Supreme Court judges, alleging that Gogoi had made sexual advances on her at his residence office on October 10 and 11.
In the affidavit, the woman said that after she rebuffed the chief justice, she was moved out of his residence office, where she had been posted in August. Two months later, on December 21, she was dismissed from service. One of the three grounds for dismissal, as detailed in an inquiry report, was that she had taken casual leave for one day without approval. She has alleged that her family is being persecuted after the incident.
Gogoi denied the allegations during a special hearing on April 20. The chief justice said he did not “deem it appropriate” to reply to the allegations and that they were part of a “bigger plot”, possibly one to “deactivate the office of the CJI”. Gogoi said the woman has a criminal background, with two cases against her.